THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc328 previewWhat are the expectations for the team?
Perhaps a little more muted than normal, mostly because of coach Alejandro Sabella's quieter, less all-out-attacking style. But given the nature of the draw I think anything less than a semi-final appearance would be seen as a disappointment.

Is the coach popular?
Among fans who realised that putting people such as Diego Maradona and his successor Sergio Batista in charge was never a good idea, yes he is. His more patient playing style, and the fact that he's trying to emphasise finding a solid defence, means he's less popular than his forebears. He's probably more popular among journalists and experts than he is among the public as a whole, but his record since taking charge doesn't leave much room for argument.

Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?
Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero have been the most visible, but the "best'" ad so far is probably for YPF, the oil company expropriated from Repsol recently by the Argentinian government. Their ad features footage of Messi, Agüero, Maxi Rodríguez and others when they were kids, and contains a load of guff about "the produce of our land". The decision to include Gonzalo Higuaín – 100 per cent Argentinian but born in France – has not been commented on.

Which players are good interviewees and who are worst?
Messi, of course, is the one everyone wants to speak to, and he's normally happy enough to spend time talking to the cameras after matches. Agüero, after matches at least, isn't such a great talker. Rodríguez, as one of the older figures in the squad, is also good. Sabella often replies to Anglophone journalists in English (learned during his playing days at Sheffield United and Leeds) and cut off a translator who was having difficulty translating an English question for him prior to a friendly against Bosnia in the US last year.

What will the media coverage be like?
Maradona is apparently involved, though it's unclear whether he'll be commentating for a Middle Eastern channel, an Argentinian channel, a Venezuelan one, or all three. The rights here are split between DirecTV, an Americas-wide satellite TV network (basically Hispanophone America's version of Sky TV, only less evil), and the state channel, TV Pública. The latter's coverage will be saturated with political "adverts" and very little analysis, if their recent coverage of the Argentinian league is anything to go by.

Will there be many fans travelling to the finals?
It was verging on a national scandal when it was revealed that Argentina fans had been awarded fewer tickets than most competing nations in the ballot. Tight controls over foreign currency and rampant inflation at home make it tricky, even for travel to a neighbouring country, but there will be plenty of Argentinians there, especially at the venues from Rio to the south. Sadly, the "official" barras brava (loosely, hooligan groups) will probably have their flights paid for by the Argentinian FA, as they did four years ago when South African authorities deported many of them almost immediately. Chants in Argentinian stadiums are normally based on 1980s rock songs – both British and Argentinian – so expect to hear a fair bit of "whoever's not jumping is [insert nationality of opposition here]". Accompanied by jumping Argentina fans. Sam Kelly

 

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